Work Accident Death Cases in Pennsylvania – What is the Statute of Limitations?
Work accident cases which result in deaths are very common in Pennsylvania. In fact, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 200 Pennsylvania residents are killed in work related accidents each year. That’s about two work related accident deaths every week. The majority of work accident deaths in Pennsylvania occur due to the following:
- transportation accidents (i.e., work related auto accidents),
- equipment accidents (i.e., forklift strike accidents), and
- workplace violence (i.e., robberies/assaults at work).
Read more about 2013 Pennsylvania work accident statistics here.
Pennsylvania Statute of Limitations Laws in Work Accident Death Cases
In the aftermath of a work related accident death, surviving family members do not often think about their legal rights, and there is a lot of confusion about legal rights of surviving family members. The reality is that most surviving family members are familiar with workers’ compensation claims and are often misinformed about their other civil legal rights. Weeks or months after a fatal work accident in Pennsylvania, surviving family members often have questions about their civil legal rights to obtain financial compensation (outside of workers’ compensation) for the loss of their loved one.
Workers’ Compensation Statute of Limitations for Work Accident Deaths in Pennsylvania
Under Pennsylvania workers’ compensation laws, surviving family members are entitled to make claims for certain benefits, such as death benefits. Under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act, notice of claims related to a worker’s death must be made within 3 years of the date of the death. In addition, the death must have occurred within 300 (roughly 5.5 years) weeks of the date of the injury. In the case of an occupational disease, the death must have occurred within 300 days (roughly 9.5 months) of the last date of employment.
Negligence Lawsuits & the Statute of Limitations
In Pennsylvania work accident death cases, the applicable statute of limitations period may vary and depends on the specific facts of the case. That’s because there are two types of legal actions surviving family members can bring. First, surviving family members can bring what is commonly referred to as a wrongful death action. Second, family members can bring a survival action. These two types of actions are commonly misunderstood and often confused with each other.
A wrongful death action allows certain direct family members (spouse, children, parents, etc.) to bring a lawsuit against negligent parties and obtain financial recovery for the economic losses caused by the death of the loved one. Economic loss claims in a PA wrongful death lawsuit often include medical and funeral expenses, loss of financial contributions the deceased family member would have made to the family, etc. The basis of the action is the death of the loved one. Therefore, as a general rule, the statute of limitations for a wrongful death action is the death itself, and therefore, the two year statute of limitations period begins ticking on the date of death. There are, however, some exceptions. For instance, in a work related disease case, the statute of limitations may begin ticking on the date the worker was diagnosed with the disease, not the date of death. More: Statute of Limitations in Pennsylvania Wrongful Death Lawsuits
A survival action allows the administrator of the deceased worker’s estate to bring a lawsuit on behalf of the deceased worker. Basically, a survival action is a continuation of a negligence lawsuit which belonged to the injured worker; due to the death, the lawsuit passes to the estate. Accordingly, the administrator of the estate can make all claims for financial compensation the deceased worker would have made, including a claim for pain and suffering. Because survival actions are based on the initial accident, the statute of limitations clock usually begins ticking on the date of the accident. Therefore, in a typical work accident death case in PA, the estate has 2 years from the date of the accident to bring a survival action.
Statute of limitations issues are often very complex and almost always require review by a qualified accident/injury lawyer. If your loved one was killed in a work related accident, please call our Pennsylvania work accident lawyers for a free consultation. (866) 641-0806
Related work accident case results:
- $101 million – The collapse of a parking garage at the Tropicana Casino in Atlantic City that injured over 30 construction workers on the job and killed 4 men working on the project (largest construction accident settlement in U.S. history).
- $13 million – The collapse of the Philadelphia Kimmel Center during its construction
- $13 million – A workplace accident resulting in an above the knee amputation of the plaintiff’s right leg
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